Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tintin and the Secret of Literature

An odd little essay piece this, at times informative, at others bloody irritating. McCarthy throws a lot of big fat frogs at Hergé's oeuvre: la crème of France's nineteenth century novelists and their bastard offspring, the structuralists and post-structuralists, and reports back to us on which ones appear to be sticking.

His account of Hergé's political drift from the far-right and de-facto collaboration with the Nazis towards the late-century ideals of the progressive left is fascinating. His suggestion that Castafiore's emerald is actually her clitoris is downright silly.

The Tintin books, McCarthy advises us, are journalistic-detective fictions covered in layers of hermeneutic complexity. "Wrapped up in a simple medium for children is a mastery of plot and symbol, theme and sub-text far superior to that displayed by most 'real' novelists." (I have McCarthy's own somewhat acclaimed novel Remainder in my pile!)

He deconstructs for us some of the cartoon stories' recurrent obsessions: crypts and cryptonyms, the friendship fetish, duplication, counterfeit and inauthenticity, "looking for noon at two o'clock" (that one from Baudelaire), tripping over, host-guest politics and the denial of inheritance. (The latter theme is said to derive from a persistent notion within Hergé's family that his father might well have been the illegitimate son of the Belgian King.)

Apparently Hergé met with Spielberg before his death and the two men discussed the making of a Tintin film, but the American apparently made copyright demands that the Belgian found unacceptable, so Spielberg went off an made Raiders of the Lost Ark "with all its scenes of penetrated tombs and cursed death-giving fetishes," McCarthy adds judiciously.

I've blown the dust off my collection and installed them in the loo for future reappraisal.

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